Monday, December 23, 2013

Finally reaching the $189 million crossroads, the Yankees apparently will let others determine the future

Hal Steinbrenner sabotaged the 2013 Yankees. At the time, it seemed a worthy cause. If the Yankees could shrink their bloated $230 million payroll to $189 million, they would escape a huge luxury tax. Eventually, they could sign a Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, or even both. One year at $189 million, that's all they needed, and then they could spend, spend, spend... without concern.

If you consider how close the 2013 Yankees came to making the one-game playoff, last winter's austerity budget looks even more punishing. When Brian Cashman said, "Beggars cannot be choosers," he wasn't talking about Josh Hamilton. He was talking about chasing middling infielders and fourth outfielders - or watching Russell Martin walk because the Yankees wouldn't give him a two-year deal. But at the time, it seemed a worthy cause. A sacrifice for the future.

Today, the Yankees sit at the cusp of the $189 million payroll, but - amazingly - they have lost control over the process. Whether they make it will be determined by two decisions outside the organization: 1) the arbiter's ruling on A-Rod's ban, and 2) whether the Golden Eagles of Japan let pitcher Masahiro Tanaka come to America. Either decision could explode the Yankee payroll and make the 2013 austerity plan an exercise in corporate incompetence.

Can you imagine the managerial upheavals if - say - Pepsico spent an entire year cutting a product, and then reversed course and pushed it? Think any executives would walk the plank, or at least be demoted?

Right now, the 2014 Yankees are a hologram, a mirage, still taking shape. They have six outfielders but no full infield, no fourth or fifth starters, no bullpen setup man, no rookies. Nobody can judge this team, because it simply cannot be like this on April 1, unless Vernon Wells pitches. But the questions remain: Will the Yankees hit the $189 million mark? Will last year have meant something? Will they change their ways? Or is this the Yankee model for perpetuity: An annual parade of old, tired, brittle, overpriced, former stars, a pre-retirement home for players whose great years came in other cities? We spend five times the amount of other teams just to contend for the post-season?

Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s - the 14-year barf - writers and fans opined about what the Yankees could do with all their money if the front office wasn't so moronic. Year after year, the Yankees were a disaster - "the worst team money can buy," pundits said. Nothing changed until  George Steinbrenner was banned from the game, and a group of baseball people started making decisions - (such as to NOT trade the disappointing prospect, Bernabe Williams.) The Yankees collapsed into dead last, and only then did they begin to improve.

That's history, folks. And from where we're sitting this Christmas week - clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right - history sure looks like it's repeating.


JM said...

Christmas is almost here and the comments dwindle as Yankee fans drink...ostensibly, to celebrate the season, but in reality, to forget for a few precious days before confronting the fact that our team is the cast of 'Cocoon' but without the alien-infused magic pool.

Next year, we will be visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, circa 1985, except it won't be Christmas and it won't be the past. It will be the summer of 2014 and after Jeter goes down for the last time, we'll have an infield that hits a combined .230 (if we're lucky) and a very fast and defensively superior outfield that, alas, won't be able to reach every ball that's hammered by opposing teams (there will be so many, after all).

Kuroda, God bless him, will fade in August unless held to 5 innings per outing starting in April. CC's comeback will fizzle as he grapples with the fact that the fastest of his fastballs is gone forever and he becomes a 'wily veteran'...unless he doesn't, which will be a disaster. Nova will be a bright, if inconsistent, spot, and perhaps Phelps delivers a Yankee miracle. We'll never really know if Robertson can be the next closer, since he'll have relatively few chances to prove himself and will inevitably fail at least some of those times.

But Cashman stays, and Girardi and his little binders stay, allowing him to explain terrible in-game decisions except for those times he chooses to ignore the too-small-sample-size stats he's compiled and guesses wrong; this is when he defends himself by saying he just had a feeling, that Vernon had been getting better swings lately or some such nonsense.

The minors continue to flounder under the same, old, tired, bumbling management group, producing nothing to save us into the distant future.

Ticket prices will be outrageous, encouraging even fewer actual fans to go to games, adding to the empty seats in all the field boxes once purchased by high-rolling fair-weather friends who spend more time on their yachts instead of going to see the oldest team in baseball. At some point, we may reach the attendance levels known in 1969-71, when you could go to a game on the spur of the moment, and hear all of the infield chatter clear as a bell because there wasn't anyone else present to make any noise.

Or, even worse than all of the above, we somehow do what we did last year, hanging on against all odds and then breaking everyone's hearts by folding in the stretch with a playoff berth within reach.

So, as we come up on Christmas and then New Year's Eve, drink up, fellow Yankee fans. Drink hard and long and try to forget what's coming. 2014 is just around the corner, and it's big and ugly and is going to crush us beneath it's scabrous, clawed paws, wearing red socks while doing it just to rub it in.

Merry Christmas, Duque, Mustang, Alphonso and everyone in the land of ice and snow. Hope you, KD and even the merciless Anonymous have a great one. See you later in the week.

KD said...

Your PepsiCo scenario did happen. Remember New Coke?

Anonymous said...

Thank God that media people such as this goon and fans actually have no say over what is going on within the organization. If you think that Brian or any other GM reads this crap is a good thing. But Merry Christmas anyway. Maybe they will let you be GM for a day next year.